With all the rain, snow and sleet we’ve experienced over the last several months, it’s no wonder producers are having trouble getting into their fields and pastures without tearing up the ground and causing compaction problems.
Jay Chism, an agronomy specialist with the University of Missouri Extension, said the issue began last fall when row crop producers had no choice but to cut soybeans and corn when the ground was soggy, and livestock producers had to feed their animals. The mud and ruts have only gotten worse with the winter’s precipitation, and it’s becoming even harder to get into the affected areas.
Chism said most producers will find it necessary to disc out trouble spots in a field to avoid water settling. “Even in a no-till field, producers are more than likely going to have to do minimal tillage to fix rut issues,” he said.
Chism also warns producers of getting in their fields too early this spring and said some may need to adjust their management practices to better fit Mother Nature’s plan.
“Some producers are going to find that it stays too wet to plant corn, and they are going to have to choose to plant beans this year just to avoid tearing up their fields,” he said.
In addition to the precipitation, the cold temperatures have caused many livestock producers to put out more and more hay for livestock, which has meant more and more time spent driving through wet pastures. 
Brie Menjoulet, also an agronomy specialist with the University of Missouri Extension, said that while some producers may choose to do nothing about the ruts they’ve left through the wet winter, there are benefits to fixing those areas when it comes to weed control.
“If producers have rutted up an area and left a lot of exposed soil, they should consider throwing out some type of forage seed to encourage regrowth in that area,” she said.  “It is important to be proactive with weed control, so getting something planted before the weeds have a chance to take over is a good idea.” Until the ground does dry out, Menjoulet recommended producers take into consideration where they’re feeding their cattle and where the bale ring is located within the pasture.
“If the bale ring is in an area surrounded by mud, like at the bottom of a hill, producers should consider either moving the ring to higher ground or just hand-rolling the bale to reduce the need for driving in the mud,” she said.
Planning ahead can also save producers a few headaches with the mud this spring.  Menjoulet said if they are preparing to move cattle to a different location, moving bale rings on a dry day can reduce rutting and tearing up the sod.
“The days are going to be warming up soon, so hopefully there will be some forage growth in the pastures and producers won’t have to feed hay as often,” she said.  “Until then, producers should try to get out and feed hay in the early morning when the ground is still frozen to avoid making too many ruts in a pasture.”


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